We, members of the student staffs of the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) and Resource Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity (RCGSD), do not support the administration’s decision to merge the two centers. Queer students and women have strived to create safe, independent spaces; administrators would be remiss to consolidate them with one top-down decision. This decision was made without input from the affected students. We believe that this merge will hinder inclusivity, advocacy and visibility, reduce resources in leadership and confound the missions of two marginalized groups. We request that the administration reconsider the decision to combine the Women’s Resource Center and Resource Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity.

Combining the WRC and the RCGSD would obscure the focus of each center: to serve and provide spaces for women and queer students. We recognize that these identities are intertwined and intersectional and we support efforts to increase co-programming and collaboration between the two centers. However, we strongly believe that meaningful and successful programming must be specific. While gender and sexuality are intertwined concepts, they require distinct needs for two different experiences of oppression.

The merge will diminish the visibility of queer people and women on Bowdoin’s campus. The centers will lose resources fundamental in supporting students, such as professional and student staff and identity-specific programming. The director and coordinator of the RCGSD and WRC, Kate Stern and Stephanie Rendall, respectively, have been instrumental in providing individual support to students. However, merging the leadership of the WRC and the RCGSD means losing identifiable and confidential staff members who serve distinct communities. Furthermore, the newly proposed positions of Dean Leana Amaez and Kate Stern as associate deans of students for diversity and inclusion will place enormous responsibility on these leaders. This may consequently limit their role in supporting students navigating queer and women’s identities. Supporting intersectionality should not result in the consolidation and disintegration of support, spaces or services. If the decision to merge reflected the needs of affected students, then the administration would foster collaboration between the WRC and the RCGSD, rather than merge the two.

The proposed changes hinder efforts to increase inclusivity within conversations about gender and sexuality. Although the merge seems to prioritize “inclusion” and “intersectionality,” it abandons the aims of each individual center to promote inclusive and intersectional programing. As separate entities, the WRC and RCGSD already face challenges in reaching diverse segments of the student population. Thus, moves to consolidate these centers while continuing to address issues of diversity and inclusion are overly idealistic in their scope. In fact, the merger may have the unintended consequence of repelling those who do not feel comfortable approaching their gender and sexuality as integrated identities. Therefore, merging centers will come at the cost of effective outreach to and engagement with groups that are already marginalized at the respective centers, particularly women of color, queer people of color, people of different religious groups and gay men. As such, we do not recommend the merging of these two symbolic and functional spaces any more than we would the merging of the African American Society and the Latin American Student Organization.

The name chosen by the administration for the proposed center removes “women” from the title, which erases the foundational history of women at the College. The WRC was founded in 1980 to support students during the shift to co-education. The original aims of the WRC, founded as a home base for the Bowdoin Women’s Association, included addressing sexism at Bowdoin, increasing the number of women faculty and serving as a sanctuary space. In the past 37 years, the WRC has built upon its original mission, becoming a center that produces an extensive range of programming. It is a historical center, a political center and a space for grassroots thinking and organizing. The RCGSD was created more recently to address issues specific to the LGBTQIA+ communities that were not found within other spaces. For many of us, these centers have been our refuges and our homes. In merging the two centers, these spaces and their respective parallel foci—to support, program and advocate for women and queer students of all backgrounds—are lost. This merger represents a misguided notion of “intersectionality” that prioritizes breadth of inclusion in rhetoric over depth of purpose and efficacy of service in practice.

The decision to merge the WRC and RCGSD demonstrates a lack of understanding of the needs of the student body as a whole. The Bowdoin administration should be committed to valuing and respecting input from our student body and those minority populations that feel marginalized on our campus. In response to Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster’s e-mail, we are ready to share our ideas and begin this conversation. We have common goals with the administration to continue the support necessary for all students on this campus, but we ask that this be a collaborative effort. We believe the proposed deans offer valuable leadership to the various centers on campus, but each unique space requires individual attention. The WRC and RCGSD must remain separate entities and deserve to be staffed with the appropriate support.

This article was written by: Amanda Spiller ’17, Scout Gregerson ’18, Rebkah Tesfamariam ’18, Patrick Toomey ’17, Paul Cheng ’17, Aliya Feroe ’17, Anuoluwapo Asaolu ’19, Kendall Schutzer ’18, Adira Polite ’18, Harriet Fisher ’17, Diamond Walker ’17, Brooke Bullington ’17, Sophie Sadovnikoff ’19, Juliana Villa ’19